Ceremony celebrates research success

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | April 23, 2014

Image with caption: From left, Vice Chancellor for Research Jennifer Larsen, M.D., Scientist Laureate Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., and Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

From left, Vice Chancellor for Research Jennifer Larsen, M.D., Scientist Laureate Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., and Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

When yet another honoree at Monday's Distinguished Scientist ceremony humbly retreated from the stage before she could finish reading his accomplishments, Jennifer Larsen, M.D., vice chancellor for research, finally quipped, "We have shy researchers."

At this, Dr. Larsen couldn't help but break into a grin: "And then there is Dr. Howard Fox."

Dr. Fox, upon taking the podium to accept UNMC's highest research honor as its eighth Scientist Laureate, readily admitted that he is not shy. But the professor of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience and senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine said he understood his colleagues' instinct to get back to work.

"Doing all this (research) keeps you quite busy," said Dr. Fox, an M.D., Ph.D. "They're not shy. They just have other things to do."

But thankfully, much of UNMC's research leadership allowed itself a short break Monday to celebrate the successes of the past year. Five new investigators were honored along with eight distinguished scientists and two research leadership awardees.

Lois Norris, who volunteered on UNMC's Institutional Review Board for three decades, was honored with the inaugural Community Service to Research Award.

Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., marked his first Distinguished Scientist ceremony as UNMC chancellor by telling a personal story to show the impact research can have. Dr. Gold first met a former patient, a baby girl named Jennifer, when she was a newborn. She suffered from a congenital heart defect, and her parents had opted for an experimental surgical procedure.

Dr. Gold said that her parents had just emailed to tell him that their daughter, now a young woman, had a baby of her own last week.

"They are living testimony that research is important, and research changes lives," Dr. Gold said.

"Nobody comes on this campus every day, myself included, who is not awed by it."

Despite continued challenges, Dr. Larsen said, UNMC's research enterprise boasts several unique advantages and continues to beat the curve on federal funding.

"We have no reason not to continue to go upward in terms of production," Dr. Larsen said, "and that is because of you."

Dr. Fox, in his remarks, said its research environment drew him to UNMC. "It's not just the growth in funding, it's not just the buildings. It's the people.

"There's quite a spirit, and everybody participates in that spirit."

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